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With a rich history that dates to 500 C.E., hors d'oeuvres are a classic feature of many global cuisines. These days, both hot and cold appetizers stimulate guests’ appetites before the entree. In formal banquet services, they’re considered the initiation to a multicourse meal.

Appetizers have seen their fair share of trends throughout their long history. Some well-known dishes of decades past include oysters Rockefeller, deviled eggs, crab cakes, and crackers with cream cheese-based dips. However, diners' tastes are evolving, and professional chefs are required to upgrade menus and modernize signature dishes.

Appetizers require less time and effort to prepare, opening opportunities for experimentation and development. Looking for new ideas and flavor combinations to elevate your current menu of appetizers? Here are a few chef-approved tips to get you started, plus cold recipe suggestions designed to keep up with modern trends.

Chef-Approved Tips for Making Unique Cold Appetizers

cold appetizers

1. Develop an appreciation for ingredients that shine when consumed cold.

Not all proteins and produce taste good when chilled or served at room temperature, so keep this in mind when selecting your ingredients. For example, good-quality seafood like sashimi-grade salmon or tuna, shrimp, and fresh oysters should be kept cold. Vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and anything you might use in ensalada make the cut, too. Fruits are a free-for-all, but mangoes, pineapples, and grapes tend to be even better when chilled.

2. Try appetizers from different cuisines for inspiration.

Cold snacks are an integral part of many food cultures around the world. In Mexican cuisine, you’ll find ceviche and bean salads. In the Mediterranean, they’re big on chilled dips and sides like hummus, tzatziki, and baba ghanoush. In Korea, cold banchan, like kimchi and cucumber salads, are typically served alongside grilled meats to refresh the palate. Go on a tasting journey and bring in new elements to make your appetizers stand out.

3. Keep honing your prep and cooking techniques.

Make sure that your knife work is precise and consistent. Proper food handling is also crucial to preserving the quality of your appetizers. You must handle and store them in optimal conditions, just like hot food, so be mindful of temperature fluctuations.

Creative Cold Appetizers Inspired by Different Cuisines

cold appetizers listing

1. Finger sandwiches

Pack these small bites with innovative flavors to make them stand out. For your sandwich filling, try a roast chicken with a spicy-sweet glaze. The recipe features Hellmann’s Smoked Chilli Dressing to keep the protein juicy while giving it a smoky, hot kick. The sauce will prevent your sandwiches from drying out in the cold before diners get a chance to enjoy them.

For variety, you can serve an assortment of cold sandwiches and light wraps. Try these:

2. Poke bowls

Poke bowls have been trending for years, and for good reason. They’re as simple and refreshing as they are a sight to behold. Make a version using sashimi-grade salmon and a medley of crunchy, colorful veggies drizzled with Hellmann’s Charred Tomato and Capers Dressing. It levels up the classic soy sauce-based poke dressing and gives the dish a tangy, smoky quality.

3. Noodle salads

Cold noodles are a staple summer dish in many Asian cuisines. They’re easy to make, and their noodles stay al dente long after prep work. Take inspiration from a stir-fried noodle dish with chicken and vegetables. For a Japanese-inspired twist, switch out the egg noodles for soba or udon and toss them in Hellmann’s Miso Ponzu Dressing. The zesty, umami-packed sauce will lighten up this carbo-loaded dish, especially when served cold.

4. Fish kilawin

Kilawin reigns supreme among cold Filipino appetizers. Similar to ceviche, it stars on fresh, uncooked fish lightly cured in an acidic marinade. Make it with Spanish mackerel mixed with vinegar, citrus, and salt. For a fun take, serve the dish with corn or adlai chips for extra crunch. To add extra zing, top with miso ponzu dressing just before serving. Give classic Filipino dishes creative twists for new takes on appetizers. 

5. Seafood skewers

Cold appetizers on a stick are bite-sized and portable, making them perfect for cocktail parties. At your next one, offer chilled seafood skewers with torched tuna or poached shrimp with an array of ice-cold beverages. Optional, but highly recommended: have a side of smoked chili or charred tomato and capers sauce ready for dipping.

6. Local cheese and charcuterie

Grazing tables and platters are a hit at formal events like wedding receptions. Their basic components include dried and cured meats, hearty cheeses, fruit, pickled sides, and crackers or bread. Guests can mix and match their choice of ingredients to create unique dishes on the fly. To make your grazing selection as fresh as can be, use cheese and charcuterie sourced from local suppliers, like kesong puti and etag. You can also go beyond meats and cheeses and feature fresh rolls, native fruits, and chilled vegetable slices.

7. Savory sorbet

Most people may recognize sorbet as dessert, but savory sorbets can serve as refreshing appetizers, too. While the usual sorbet uses syrup and fruit, you can make savory options with fresh produce like tomato, avocado, and celery. You can also turn it into an aperitif by adding spirits to the mix. Take inspiration from cocktails, like the tomato-based Bloody Mary or frozen margaritas.

Ultimately, one of the easiest ways to elevate cold appetizers is to play with different flavors and textures. And instead of making sauces from scratch to achieve the same results, simplify your work with ready-made options. This way, you can focus on sourcing good-quality cold ingredients, developing new recipes, and honing your skills.

For more ideas and inspiration, download our Free Knorr Professional Healthy Cookbook to get the latest tips on and inspiration for nutritious dishes to add in your food business!